Monday, April 7, 2014

Good-Bye DC - I'm Dumping You, and It's Not Me, It's You

So long, DC, and thanks for all the fish.

I mentioned a month ago, when I came back from my work-and-life imposed blogging break, that I had a major announcement that I'd be making relatively soon - well, that day has come.

DC, I'm breaking up with you. And sorry, but it's not me - it's you.

Now, stop throwing things at me and let me explain. It's not that I dislike you now, or that we haven't had lots of fun together these past 4 years. Back in 2010, when I graduated from grad school into a terrible economy, you were just about the only place in the country with a deep job market for educated people like me, thanks to the eternal demand created by the federal government - and for that, I'm thankful.

You're a lively, vibrant city with tons to offer young professionals like me - lots to see and do, an ever-improving restaurant and bar scene, music for all tastes and styles, tons of cultural activities, perhaps the most under-appreciated theatre scene in the entire United States, and much more.

But, I've grown and changed - and while you've changed, you haven't grown in the same way I have.

Let's be honest - you are a TERRIBLE place to try to raise a family. This is my biggest beef with you, and why I simply must break it off. You see, I now have this child that I have to care for, and she is a rather demanding little creature. Sure, you say that you have lots of parks and the like, but it's at least a 15 minute walk through your concrete jungle and lots of traffic if I want to put my daughter on a patch of grass to play. And though my job is relatively family friendly, the general work-addicted culture of DC isn't child-friendly. And everyone stares us at us like we're insane whenever we try to take our kid to any restaurant in DC - children generally aren't welcome in public in DC outside of parks and other kid-only designated spaces; at least, that's the way I feel.

And schools - we have a few years before this becomes central to our lives, but oh God, your schools, DC, where to even start. If I want to get the Babycrat into a good school in DC, I only have 4 options to do so, all of which suck:
  1. Move to the suburbs. This is what most people with kids do. There, I might be able to find a modest, small house with a small yard for around $350k that's in a good school district. The trade-off is that my new hour+ commute will make me want to kill myself daily.
  2. Spend $900k+ to buy a tiny house in a rich neighborhood in NW where there is a history of having good schools. Do you know how many houses I can buy for $900k in a little town in the Northeastern USA with some of the best schools in the country? 4. Big ones. 4 big houses, for the same price as a tiny house in NW DC.
  3. Spend $600k+ to buy a tiny/moderate sized house in NE DC in a neighborhood with a newly decent school, and hope and pray that my house isn't rezoned into the crappy school district a couple of blocks away.
  4. Spend $20k+ per year per kid on private school tuition.
Well, you know what, DC? That's beyond ridiculous - I'm not going to do it, so I'm out.

And I'm sick of your traffic. Good lord, your traffic - the worst in the entire USA, by some measures. And the congestion along my street has gotten noticeably worse in the past 4 years. I just can't take it anymore. Experts (and anyone with any common sense) say that the congestion is only going to get worse in the coming decades - well, I refuse to be around to see it.

Oh, and I hate the Comcast monopoly that you live under - you have an ultra-fast public Internet network - why not let the DC citizens enjoy the use of it?

Let's be honest, DC - ever since my daughter was born, the only thing keeping us together has been the fact that my job kept me anchored to you, like a medieval prisoner to his ball-and-chain. Recently, however, my job decided to let me become a full-time teleworker and choose where I'm going to live and work - so I'm taking them up on their offer and dumping you.

So, my family and I are off to live in Chattanooga, TN for a few years, while the Babycrat is still young, so she can spend much more time with her grandparents (and so her grandparents can help us out with raising her, and with raising any possible future children, should such children materialize). When the Babycrat needs to enter school (because, let's face it, Tennessee schools aren't much/any better than your schools, DC), then we'll likely set our sights on settling in Burlington, VT or somewhere outside Boston, where it's possible to buy a house in a district with world-class schools for less than $900k. Or perhaps we'll buy 4 houses, just for the hell of it.

I don't mean for this to sound unkind - you've been very good to us for the past 4 years, and I have greatly enjoyed (most of) the time we've spent together. I've grown up and matured, however, and you've just grown - and you're just demanding too many compromises of me (and too much money from me) for me to stick around.

But don't worry - I'll be back often enough, and I'm sure we'll stay friends.

(A note to my readers: even though I'll be leaving DC, this blog will soldier on, though perhaps at the more leisurely posting rate of late, rather than the 1-2 posts per day at the outset of the blog. I'm also happy to entertain guest posts, if you have a screed you want to share with my other readers.)


  1. Nope. It's definitely you. These are all personal problems you have with DC. Good luck in Chattanooga.

    1. Anonymous: Actually, (almost) all of the problems listed above are systemic problems:

      1. Terrible public schools are a systemic problem, affecting every person with a child in the DC area. It is ridiculous that you have to be rich, very lucky, and/or have a terrible commute in order to get your child in a good school.

      2. Terrible traffic congestion is a systemic problem, affecting everyone who ever drives in DC. I avoid this problem by almost never driving in DC, but on the rare occasions I do, it is, without exception, a miserable experience.

      3. The Comcast monopoly is a systemic problem, created by monopolistic franchising agreements and poor regulation of Internet infrastructure.

      What is personal is that the Babycrat is more demanding than the average baby, meaning that help from Babycrat's grandparents is perhaps more helpful to us than the average grandparent is to the average baby.

      But, no, most of the above problems are systemic - it's just that, for us, the disadvantages of DC now outweigh the advantages, especially since I'm no longer held here by my job. But, that's doesn't mean my problems with DC are "personal."

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

  2. Replies
    1. Anonymous: The above post hit a little too close to home, eh? Or perhaps you're one of those terrible people who think that children have no right to ever be seen in public?

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

  3. Selling a place in DC right now is the best financial move anybody could make, so I'm with you there. Living among people who hate everything I stand for would get to me in no time, so I'll be staying. We'll leave the streetlights on for you. Farewell!

    1. Joe: Well, leaving DC is far more bittersweet for us than the above (rather snarky) post implies - there is a lot about DC that we will miss dearly, especially our friends. And I'll be back at least a couple times a year (because of work), which will be nice.

      We are certainly a little hesitant about moving to a part of the world where the political views of the average person differ so drastically from our own - but we hope to find a progressive community in Chattanooga to become a part of. And, if we hate it, we can pick up and move to the Northeast when our Chattanooga lease is up. Yay for having 100% portable work!

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

  4. Drastic times call for drastic measures - but TN???
    We had the same conundrum when looking to move in DC and ended up taking our search a bit outside of city limits. We found a great 3 bdrm 2200 sq ft updated townhouse near National airport for $500K. Takes 30 min tops in traffic to get downtown, and 10 minutes without. It's still possible to enjoy the city, even if you're not living right in it :) Not to mention all the great (and cheap) ethinic dining options in Nova...if you don't believe me just read the Six Rules to Diring Out - {Spoiler alert} the best food is outside of DC anyway!

    1. Anonymous: I know, I know, my wife and I are still wrapping our heads around TN a little bit too. Honestly, 98% of the reason we're moving to TN (almost certainly for only a few years) is so that we are near family who will help with raising the Babycrat while she's very young (and with Babycrat's not-yet-existant younger sibling(s), whom we hope to try for in 1-2 years). As much as we wish it were otherwise, our families are rooted in TN and will NEVER, EVER move anywhere else.

      If that weren't a consideration for us, we'd almost certainly be heading up to Burlington or outside Boston immediately - but as it is, it's better for us to be closer to family for a few years, and then move and settle down where we want to raise our kids.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

  5. It's not just you. I come from Cleveland, Ohio and would never raise a child in DC. Not only would my dollar go farther but I want to raise children with the Midwestern manners that I have. That's not going to happen in DC!

    1. We moved back to DC from a year in Columbus, OH - I loved OH and hope you are able to go back home! Such great people. We came back here for my job and I regret it. Good luck!

  6. I love your post and support you! I lived in TN for nearly 10 years after spending my childhood in Miami, FL (another beautiful, fun visit). TN is a wonderful place with wonderful people. No place is panacea, and you'll probably have to overlook some ideals that are not in connection your own, but areas outside DC/NOVA offer things this area doesn't, esp. in regards to child-raising, which is my focus right now too. We moved from DC to Ohio for many of the sames reasons as you but we came back a year ago for my new job. I question my sanity over that every day and hope to move away again. DC is wonderful, beautiful, vibrant and I love that part too, but the financial stress of living here doesn't outweigh the positives to me either. Plus, the people can be remarkably unfriendly. We live in convenient N Arlington with lots of parks, walkability, and great schools. But everything is a fight/competition - parking lots are always swamped, swimming lessons at every public pool have a long wait list, and don't get me started on the wait lists for local daycare/preschools. Ridiculous. I want an easier, cheaper life outside DC/NOVA. Discussing DC's livability is polarizing, but I related with your post and appreciated it. Hopefully TN treats you well!